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A Woman In Coachella Was Arrested After She Was Seen On Camera Tossing 7 Puppies In A Dumpster

Riverside County Animal Services told BuzzFeed News that had a man not discovered the 3-day-old puppies within a 15-minute window, they would not have survived.

Last updated on April 22, 2019, at 10:25 p.m. ET

Posted on April 22, 2019, at 2:26 p.m. ET

Riverside County Animal Services

A 54-year-old woman suspected of tossing seven puppies into a trash can in Coachella, California, was arrested Monday after authorities linked her to disturbing security footage of the act, authorities said.

Deborah Sue Culwell was identified as the woman seen in the security camera footage that was released Friday. In the video, a woman driving a white Jeep is caught quickly chucking a bag with the puppies inside trash can.

Officials at the Riverside County Animal Services worked with the local sheriff's department to identify and take the woman into custody Monday.

She was arrested at 5:30 p.m. at her home in Coachella, a spokesman for the Riverside County Department of Animals Services said.

In a second video released Monday by Riverside County Animal Services, Culwell can be seen being handcuffed just outside the door of her home.

"Debbie, why did you do that?" someone can be heard asking her in the video. Culwell does not appear to respond. "Were they your puppies?"

View this video on YouTube

On Friday, the center received a call from an employee of a local auto parts store that a man had discovered a trash bag in on of their dumpsters that contained seven newborn puppies. Animal services officials estimated the terrier mix puppies were about three days old.

An officer was then able to obtain surveillance footage from the store that showed a woman driving up to their trash site with a bag.

View this video on YouTube

A man in the area whom described as a transient was rummaging through the dumpsters when he came across the bag of puppies and brought them into the auto parts store.

John Welsh, a spokesman for animal services, told BuzzFeed News that because the puppies were dumped in a sealed plastic bag, had they not been discovered as soon they had, they would not have survived.

Temperatures in Coachella that day were in the mid-90s, he added.

"That’s a window of 15 minutes — had he not called us, those dogs are dead," Welsh said. "That guy is a hero in our mind."

The puppies have since been transported to a local rescue group, where they're being bottle-fed.

Riverside County Animal Services

"There is no excuse for dumping puppies, especially in today’s age, when we or other shelters would be willing to get these animals to foster parents or rescue partners," Riverside County Animal Services Commander Chris Mayer said in a news release. "This was a shameful act."

Officials said they were planning to pursue a felony charge of animal cruelty against the woman.


Chris Mayer's name was misstated in an earlier version of this post.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.